Germany Dissolves Special Forces Unit Linked to Far-Right Extremism

The unit of Germany's top commando force, surrounded by a wall of silence, had been at the center of extremism allegations. Meanwhile, the authorities are looking into the disappearance of a large amount of ammunition and explosives from the unit's arsenal

German Defense Ministry file photo

A unit of Germany's elite commando force has been disbanded because of right-wing extremism in its ranks, the country's defense minister said July 1. 

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said some of the 70 troops from the 2nd Commando Company, which has been at the center of extremism allegations, would be reassigned to one of the other three companies of the Kommando Spezialkraefte (KSK). The minister said the unit had been surrounded by a wall of silence. 

“An analysis of current events and right-wing extremist cases makes it clear that the KSK special forces command has become independent, at least in some areas, over the past few years, due to an unhealthy elitist understanding of individual leaders. This has led to the emergence of areas in the unit in which toxic leadership, extremist tendencies, and a lax approach to material and ammunition have developed that are in no way consistent with the applicable regulations of the German military,” the minister said.

"We will give the KSK time to press the reset button," Kramp-Karrenbauer added.

The unit founded in 1996 is said to have about 1,300 soldiers trained for counter-terror, hostage rescue and other special operations. The KSK is reported to have served in the Balkans and Afghanistan, among others. Its operations are kept secret. 

Reports said KSK missions will be assigned to other units when possible, and the KSK will not take part in exercises or wargames with foreign troops until further notice. 

In an interview on June 30, Kramp-Karrenbauer said the elite force had "become partially independent" from the chain of command, and had developed a "toxic leadership culture". 

Earlier in the month, a captain in the KSK sent the defense minister a 10-page letter in which he asked her to intervene, accusing instructors and senior commandos of cultivating a "toxic culture of acceptance", and claimed complaints about far-right influences were suppressed.

The minister set up a working group in May to look into the problem of right-wing extremism in the military. A report presented by the group on June 30 said the KSK "cannot continue to exist in its current form" and must be better integrated into the German military, according to AFP.  

The German authorities are also looking into the disappearance of 48,000 rounds of ammunition and 62kg of explosives from the KSK's arsenal.  Kramp-Karrenbauer has described the incident as "disturbing" and "alarming".

In January, German's military intelligence said that in 2019 there were almost 600 suspected right-wing extremists, including 20 members of the KSK, in the country's armed forces.  Inspections were recently ordered at all military barracks after Nazi memorabilia was found at two of them. In May, police found weapons and explosives at the home of a member of the KSK.

"Anyone who turns out to be a right-wing extremist has no place in the German military and must leave it," Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a German radio interview.